Now that I’m feeling better, I’m able to look forward to my birthday this week!  My birthday is October 9th.  Though it put me in the younger end of all my classes, I have always enjoyed most aspects of having an October birthday.  As I walked Finley today, we felt the warm sun counteracting the crispiness of the fall air.  We crunched through the first leaves to fall.  Mums and late roses are still in bloom, being gradually replaced by harvest-related items.  The supermarkets are full of root vegetables in those classic autumnal colors.  Pomegranates are in.  Clementines are coming.  And I can finally make pumpkin bread again without the strange looks that accompany the presentation of my favorite quick bread in March. 

It’s finally cool enough to snuggle under blankets at night, yet still warm enough not to need a jacket during the warm parts of the day.  Corduroy is coming, flannel is coming, wool is coming.  My jacket collection will soon be aired, and the novelty of coats means I’m not yet tired of bundling up.  I relish it after a hot summer of running between air-conditioned oases and suffering in endless heat all day long.  Fall is finally here.

Which always means my birthday, in this part of the world.  The only part about my birthday that’s not easy is that, moving around a lot when I was a child, I had never quite made new friends by that point in the school year, and my birthday celebrations were a little lackluster.  New schools and October birthdays were hard.  Ninth grade, freshman year of college, grad school even.  Now, thank goodness, Mr. Apron and I are free to enjoy our own celebration of my birthday.  If I’m lucky, my sister is able to join us, and my mother has come out in years past, too. 

This year, my sister has “fall break” (aka Columbus Day = 3-day weekend, if you can call that a “break”) to coincide with my birthday weekend, so she’ll be joining the festivities.  Mr. Apron has been making secret plans and sharing them with my sister over e-mail, buying secret gifts and squirreling them away, and generally being very sly.  I love it.  He does all the planning, and I just get excited.  One year, he whisked me off to Hartford, Connecticut and we got engaged on the porch of Mark Twain’s house.  Another year he bundled me off on an early morning hike.  Another time he kidnapped me to Brooklyn where we went to an indie flea market.  He knows what I like and takes great pleasure in carrying out these secret missions. 

Another tradition that goes with my birthday is the annual Birthday Suit.  Of course, my first birthday suit is the one I was born in, but each year my mother sews me a “public” birthday suit.  When I was younger, I took great delight in dressing up on the day of my birthday and wearing my new outfit  to school.  It helped carry that special birthday feeling all day long, through fractions and the scientific method and gym class.  Unfortunately, in recent years, the Birthday Suit has become less of a sure thing.  My mother has had 2 spectacular busts in recent years, and I try not to put too much stock in this year’s. 

Last year wasn’t so awful, truly, but it was quite a production.  Mom procured a refrigerator box, out of which she cut a life-size Me, and then dressed Me in my Birthday Suit.  I think there were pants that didn’t quite fit (always with receipts from TJ Maxx), but the top.  Oh, the top.  She thinks I’m still a size 4 with the same breasts I had in 9th grade.  This was a wrap-top in a yellow fabric replete with cars, palm trees, and general “surfer beach bum” theme.  Would I pick it out on my own?  Probably not.  But would I wear it in her presence to be polite?  If I could close it.  Wrap tops are tricky for us well-endowed ladies, due to excess cleavage.  This one didn’t even close around my buxomness.  Oh, I’ll alter it, I assured her as she beamed at the cleverness of the presentation.  It’s sitting in a box on the top shelf of my crafting area marked “UFOs”: UnFinished Objects, where it shall remain until the guilt mounts.  Or something.  That was 2008. 

In 2007, trying to stack the deck, I requested a specific pattern — a popular Asian-inspired style of dress — and she supplied the colorful rayon print.  That was a resounding success.  People ask me about it every time I wear it, and I wear it often.

The Birthday Suit of 2006 was a moderate success — a bias-cut skirt made of pink Cabbage Patch Kids fabric.  It’s very cute, even in a size 4, though the colors in the ‘Kids yarn hair have been a bit difficult to match to a top.  I have worn it several times. 

It was 2005’s Birthday Suit which I recoil in terror from.  This is the Birthday Suit I dread will come back to haunt me every year as I open the box.  I was a preschool assistant teacher from 2003 until 2006, when I went back to school to get my Master’s in Speech Pathology.  I think as long as people hear the word “teacher” they start thinking of tacky apple-themed gifts.  Whiel others had given me notecards, buttons, and desk accessories, I had thus far eschewed the ubiquitous tote bag, and I had hoped my mother was immune.  Alas; fall is also the time for apple-, school bus-, and chalkboard-theme fabrics.  I received overalls covered in those bastions of teacher themed objects: a white background with chalkboards, apples, ABCs, rulers, and school buses.  And if elasticized pants are a sin to wear in the under 65 crowd, then overalls with EZ-access zippers are, too.  I could not pretend to like those, or even to make plans for alteration into a toilet seat cover or drawer liners.  While I have held onto many items of clothing for sentimental reasons (including last year’s wrap-top, my winter coat from age 3, and the first pair of pants I ever modified into bell bottoms), I could not even pretend to attach anything but tackiness-induced trauma to those overalls. 

Maybe they’re in some Salvation Army store, being snapped up and appreciated by a teacher who likes that sort of thing.  I wish her all the best.

Mom has been excitedly talking on the phone with me the last week, teasing me with non-hints about this year’s Birthday Suit.  I can bet it’s going to be colorful.  All I know from her “hints” is that it has animals on it.  Now I’m dreading leopard and zebra prints or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  She mailed it today.  It will likely arrive Wednesday.  As a dutiful daughter, I will give myself some hope for a repeat of 2007’s dress, or the one from 2003, which if I remember correctly, was patchwork wrap pants.  Those I only had to hem myself. 

I love the tradition.  I love the fact that my mother has crafted a new outfit for me to feel special in each year since I was born, when she “crafted” me.  I love that she’s able to show her love that handmade way, instead of with a trip to the mall.  I enjoy and look forward to the tradition each year, even as I fear the product of her imagination.  Sometimes she knows me, she gets me, she nails the outfit.  Other times she’s so far off, it’s like the gifts of Barbie clothes my aunt used to send me for Hanukkah, to the house where no Barbie doll had ever lived. 

I guess it’s a metaphor for our relationship.  As I continue to grow up, she still knows the foundation of Me, the ideas I have and colors I like and values that I hold.  She may not have kept up with some of my interests and abilities, but at least she knows not to make me a Barbie jumper.  I hope.